Local lemonade company offers sweet and healthy options
Local entrepreneur Vee Washington launched Vanlice Lemonade on behalf of his 5-year-old daughter Hayzel Woo Washington. The Minnesota-based business is growing in popularity and is available in various local stores.
Washington is originally from Liberia and came to Minnesota in 1991. He and his family escaped from a civil war at the time. When Washington arrived in Minnesota, he attended middle school in Fridley, and “then I went to Blaine for high school,” he said.
He elaborated, “I went to St. Cloud State for business, and that’s when I fell in love with music more. So I went down to this school in Florida for music and I graduated there,” Washington explained.
Washington is a singer-songwriter, and his background is in “sound designing.” He chose to become an entrepreneur years later. He said, “Just me and my daughter Miss Hayzel—she’s our CEO.”
The idea to begin the lemonade business arrived while his daughter was in the womb. Washington explained how the mother of his daughter was craving lemonade at the Carver County Fair. While they stood in line, he noticed how the beverage seemed to generate a lot of sales in a short period of time.
So, Washington began conducting research. Since he had a child on the way, he said, “I gotta figure something out, and something struck me again about the lemonade stand that we saw.” He thought it was a good idea to develop his own product.
Formulating Vanlice Lemonade required a bit of trial and error. Washington viewed a variety of videos to learn how to create refreshing lemonade. “Lemonade is actually harder than you think. I thought it was going to be easy,” he said.
Initially, “I almost gave up on the business” due to the price of lemons. “The prices kept fluctuating as well.” After trial and error, he developed a crisp, refreshing, and flavorsome brand of lemonade, Washington said.
He added, “My thing is really about health—how can we change the way these kids are growing up? Everything is so processed.
“I figured out four ingredients—fresh-squeezed lemon juice, mineral water, real vanilla bean, and real cane sugar,” he said. “I needed to find the exact amount in everything because lemon juice is sometimes really tart, sweet or watery,” Washington said. Acid reflux was an issue before he perfected the delicious formula.
Through the business, Washington teaches his daughter, CEO Hayzel Woo Washington, about the value of a dollar and how to save money so she can purchase her own electronics, such as an iPad.
He places an emphasis on financial literacy and the independence of being a business owner. “When you own your own stuff, nobody can take it away from you. It teaches her early on that you have to work for stuff,” he said.
The Vanlice Lemonade formula was officially developed in 2017. Washington eventually began introducing the lemonade and setting up at the Camden Farmer’s Market. “That was one of the pinnacle moments for me,” Washington said. The first store that held the product was a liquor store in Shoreview, MN.
As time passed, the lemonade became available at Hyvee. The products “sold out fast” and were well-received by consumers. “I started seeing it selling every month,” he said.
Washington decided to fill his vehicle with his products and travel to several Hyvee stores. They chose to carry Vanlice Lemonade. “There’s a lot of stores—there’s a map that shows all the stores we’re in,” Washington said.
Fortunately, the rapid growth in business and high demand prompted Washington to work on building a team. Most recently, “We just added one more [store] downtown at the Dayton’s Project,” Washington explained.
Customers can also order online or have the lemonade delivered to their homes.
Asked about the mission of the business, Washington said, “My goal really is to be able to change the way that our kids are growing up and eating, what they’re putting in their body. We want to get back to real, that’s the ultimate goal.”
He elaborated, “Business-wise, I want to be able to empower others that look like myself, and minorities—and also teach the youth these skills as they grow older.”
Washington hires youth in the summer, which provides them with an opportunity to learn skills about running a business. He said, “I’ll teach them how to upsell, how to handle money, how to count inventory, and how to interact with people.”
He offered further advice for youth: “Listen to the people who are actually doing what you want. Learn from them, because those are the ones who can actually tell you the truth.”
For more info, visit www.vanlicelemonade.com.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.